Marriage, Motherhood and Masculinity in the Global Economy: Reconfiguration of Personal and Economic Life

Kabeer, N.
Institute of Development Studies
Publication date: 
January 2007

The informalisation and irregularity of work, and the feminisation of the global labour force are two critical outcomes of globalisation. What does the feminisation of the labour market mean for men and women’s experiences of gender equality?  Women’s increased access to work reflects multiple interrelated influences: shifts towards gender equity such as increased access to education for women and girls interact with deepening inequalities such as growing levels of landlessness and increased costs of living for all. Significantly this is happening in a context of stagnant and declining rates of male labour force participation. What do these changes mean in a context of a hegemonic masculinity, where men’s power is recognised through the identity of breadwinner?

This working paper establishes through an analysis of empirical studies that men have shown a stark refusal to share unpaid work within the household and that is reflected in local to global policy despite the growing importance of women’s income-generation responsibilities. Relatedly, demand for paid labour that until now was provided through women’s care roles within families and marriages has materialised. This includes both the unpaid workload of working women, and the commercial provision of companionship and sexual services. The evidence in this paper speaks to the ‘crisis in masculinity’ discourse, with men from poor and marginalised groups most affected in that they are furthest from the ideal of provider that underpins the dominant hegemony. One implication drawn from this analysis is that men’s involvement in care work may help to break down some of the rigidities of male identity and lessen their own vulnerability.

Publication place: 
Brighton, UK
Kabeer, N. (2007) Marriage, Motherhood and Masculinity in the Global Economy: Reconfiguration of Personal and Economic Life, IDS Working Paper 290, IDS: Brighton, UK
feminisation of labour markets
unpaid work
family structures